US cyber attacks disrupting ISIS communications and operations

Hurting ISIS where it hurts them the most, the US is conducting cyber attacks to hinder their online operations and communications.

By: AP
Defense Secretary Ash Carter

Defense Secretary Ash Carter. (AP/Susan Walsh)

US cyberattacks to disrupt the Islamic State’s (ISIS) communications and overload their networks could force the terrorist group to use older technologies that are easier for the US to intercept, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Monday.

Carter and Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, provided details about how the Pentagon is using its new, aggressive cyber campaign as part of military operations against ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

“As we disrupt the ISIL communications via cyber or other methods, sometimes we do drive them to other means,” Carter told Pentagon reporters. “Sometimes, those other means are easier for us to listen to.”

US officials told The Associated Press last week that the military had increased cyber operations against the group. The operations include efforts by US Cyber Command to prevent the group from using the Internet and social media to communicate and distribute propaganda aimed at attracting and inspiring recruits. The efforts could also force ISIS back to technologies like cell phones to communicate.

Dunford said that using the computer-based attacks alongside bombings and other military actions allows the US to “both physically and virtually isolate” the group and limits its ability to command and control its fighters.

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That type of coordinated offensive, he said, will be used to support Iraqi security forces as they try to retake the northern city of Mosul.

The surge of computer-based military operations by US Cyber Command began shortly after Carter prodded commanders last month to accelerate the fight against the Islamic State group on the cyber front.

Dunford and Carter didn’t provide a lot of details Monday. Dunford said the US doesn’t want to reveal too much.

“We don’t want the enemy to know when, where and how we’re conducting cyber operations,” said Dunford. “We don’t want them to have information that will allow them to adapt over time. We want them to be surprised when we conduct cyber operations.”